Spiritual growth is absolutely necessary in a walk with God or there is no walk with God. In fact, the phrase “walk with God” implies progression. A constant spiritual growth change provides many safeguards for a Christian. For example, it provides a protection from the assaults of Satan. It is very difficult for him to hit a moving target. It also provides immunities that a Christian would not have otherwise. The things of the world that could be detrimental tend to roll off like water on a duck’s back. It provides momentum. Consistent spiritual progression tends to create a force field that helps to maintain positive change. Consistent spiritual growth automatically appropriates the blessing of the Lord. The Holy Spirit is always involved in our growth process.
When Satan wants to defeat a Christian he rarely tries to deceive him with false doctrines. That kind of tactic has little success. He is much more effective by hindering a person’s spiritual growth. When that happens the Christian becomes vulnerable. If Satan can make a Christian believe that he has attained all that is necessary, then he is defeated. Even if he only throws him off-track for six months, it is a defeat. The Christian may think, “Well, the devil battled me for six months, but I have won!” No, it was a defeat; he lost six months that he could have been moving closer to God.
Spiritual growth is not determined by how much we read the Bible or by how much we pray or by doing more good deeds. Those things will increase as we walk on with God, but they are not the determining factors of spiritual growth. One can discipline himself to do more of those things without any spiritual change at all. Spiritual growth is determined by how much the Lord is taking over our lives, how much our human nature is being eliminated, and how much of His divine nature is being appropriated.
There are three basic levels of spiritual growth – a little child, an adolescent, and adulthood. We see this in the way the Gospels present the life of Jesus Christ. He is first seen as a babe in a manger (Luke 2:16). Next, He is seen as an adolescent in the temple “about His Father’s business” (Luke 2:41-49). He is not seen after that until He reaches adulthood (the age of thirty) at the beginning of His ministry (Luke 3:22-23).
These three levels of spiritual growth are seen in many ways throughout the Scriptures. It is first seen on the third day of Genesis chapter one where it pictures the three stages of growth as grass, herbs, and trees (Genesis 1:11). Growth is similarly symbolized again in Mark 4:28 where it says that the earth brings forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. It is seen again in the parable of the sower where the fruitfulness is described in three levels - 30-fold, 60-fold, and 100-fold. These are just a few, but there are similar symbolic pictures of these levels of spiritual growth throughout the Old and New Testaments. As we shall see it is not a matter of finally reaching the third level and we have reached the ultimate. On the contrary, these three levels are merely a cycle in a series of cycles, for our salvation is always expandable. We are responsible for the continuation of our spiritual growth; therefore, we must have a continuous hunger for more of God in our lives.
Deuteronomy 16:16 Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty.
Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God: Our particular interest in this verse is how it relates to our progression from level to level in our relationship with the Lord. First, we want to understand that these instructions are not for men only. Yes, it says “all thy males shall appear before the Lord.” However, we understand that in Christ there is neither male nor female. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28. Both men and women are moving into sonship. Both men and women are in the “manchild company,” ascending to the throne of authority (Revelation 12:5). So, bringing our text into the realm of Kingdom truth “all thy males” becomes a company comprised of men and women appearing before the Lord.
What does it mean to appear before the Lord? It is not a geographical change. Going to Jerusalem or Mecca or to some cathedral doesn’t get us any closer to God. The Lord God is omnipresent; we are no closer to Him in one place than another. God is Spirit and how close we are to Him is determined by our relationship with Him. The more spiritual we are the closer we are to Him. Each time we take a step closer to the Lord in our relationship with Him we are entering a new level of spirit, and at each level we are appearing before the Lord. Our spiritual growth is increased by continually appearing before the Lord on ascending levels of spirit. We do not appear before the Lord and then go about our business and then appear before Him again on the same level of relationship. We enter into a new level, learn how to function on that level, and then take a step into the next higher level of relationship.
Appear before the Lord thy God in the place which He shall choose: Next, our text says that we are to appear before the Lord “in the place which He shall choose.” How is “in the place which He shall choose” transferred to spiritual truth for us? Verse 6 of Deuteronomy 16 gives us the key to the answer of this question. But at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place His name in, there you shall sacrifice the Passover at even…. We must appear before the Lord in the place where He chooses to place His name. We notice in the Scriptures that each time God revealed Himself in some way that He gave Himself a name that described His revelation. Therefore, we understand that where He chooses to place His name is where He is revealing Himself. There is no spiritual growth without revelations of the Lord. He reveals Himself in a certain way and we enter in to experience Him in that revelation. The purpose for revealing Himself in a certain way is to draw us into a new relationship with Him. He appears to us through revelation and then we must become as He is in that revelation – that is spiritual growth. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. I John 3:2.
They shall not appear before the Lord empty: We’re talking about spiritual growth, progressing from one level to another in our relationship with the Lord. So what does it mean when it says we “shall not appear before the Lord empty”? When Israel celebrated the feasts of the Lord, they were to bring offerings according to the blessings they had received from Him. So we must appear before the Lord with the fruitfulness He has produced in us. As we grow spiritually we become more fruitful in the Lord. We cannot appear before the Lord without an increase of Him in our lives. He is not saying that we should not appear before Him without an increase; He is saying that we cannot. It is impossible to move into a new level of relationship with the Lord if there has been no spiritual growth on our present level.
Three times in a year: Three times in a year Israel was to appear before the Lord in the place He chose in the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover), and in the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), and in the Feast of Tabernacles. The place He chooses is the place where He reveals Himself. So, Passover and Pentecost and Tabernacles are places of revelation. They are special times when He reveals Himself, and it is then that we must enter into a new relationship with Him according to the way He is revealing Himself to us. This is stated much too simplistic, but it is not easy to transfer revelation to human concepts.
Israel’s feasts were at a certain time in the year, but when you relate them to spiritual growth the time element disappears. Everyone does not grow spiritually at the same rate. Everyone does not have their spiritual Passover or Pentecost or Tabernacles at the same time. A year of spiritual growth for one Christian may be much longer or much shorter than for someone else. Peter said that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (II Peter 3:8). In other words, God is Spirit and in Him there is no time, as we know it. He is eternal; He is consistently in a now-realm.
A year is a cycle. In the natural there are physical, emotional, and mental changes that take place in you as you go through a year of time. Then you go through another year and the cycle repeats itself. We go through spiritual-growth cycles, too. We have three stages of growth in each year-cycle – a Passover stage, a Pentecost stage, and a Tabernacles stage. So a spiritual-growth year would last as long as it takes for us to experience the three revelation stages of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Then, we begin another spiritual-growth year cycle. This time the three revelation stages of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles are on a higher level. Each spiritual-growth year cycle involves the three appearances before the Lord, and each year cycle evolves into the next one. Now, why would a one-year growth cycle be longer for one person than for another? It is because it is determined by our hunger for the Lord and our appropriation of His life.
There are many examples of these spiritual growth cycles in the Scriptures. We are going to look at two of them. The first is in the first chapter of Genesis. You will recall that on the first day God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (verses 3-5). On the second day God divided the waters above from the waters below with a firmament (verses 6-8). On the third day land appeared and from it was produced grass, herbs, and trees of fruitfulness (verses 9-13). These days of growth and change continued until the sixth day when man was created and God rested on the seventh day. Each day would represent a spiritual growth-year cycle. Don’t think in terms of time. These days are not 24-hour days. We are relating them to spiritual growth in the realm of spirit where there is no time. When the desired change or work of the first day was completed, then it evolved into the second day, and so on. We will continue through these growth cycles until the many-membered Body of Christ becomes a perfect man unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). The second example is in Matthew chapter 13.
In Matthew 13:3-9 Jesus relates the parable of the sower. Then He explains the parable to His disciples in verses 18-23. The sower of the seed, He says, is the one who ministers the Word of the Kingdom (verses 3,19). Those who receive the Word of the Kingdom, of course, are Christians. In this parable Jesus separates those who hear the Word of the Kingdom into six different groups. The first three groups have problems that keep them from advancing spiritually in the Lord. The last three grow spiritually and become fruitful. The first group receives the Word but they do not have understanding and the wicked one steals the Word from their hearts (verses 4,19). Without a revelation of the Word spiritual growth is impossible. The second group receives the Word of the Kingdom, too, but they withdraw because of persecution and tribulation (verses 5-6,20-21). Dedication is necessary, too, for tribulation will always face those who endeavor to make advancement toward the Kingdom of God – We must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). The third group receives the Word but the cares of the world choke it out and they do not become fruitful (verses 7,22). The last three groups receive the Word and become fruitful – some thirty-fold, some sixty-fold, and some a hundred-fold (verses 8.23).
The three stages of fruitfulness - thirty-fold, sixty-fold, and hundredfold - correspond to the three feast stages of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Spiritual growth, as previously said, must be continuous. None of these three stages are to be a final resting-place. They are three stages of a cycle of many cycles. We pass through the thirty-fold or Passover stage on our way to the sixty-fold or Pentecost stage, and then we pass through it to the hundred-fold or Tabernacles stage. Then, when we come into the hundred-fold stage we realize that we are in the thirty-fold section of the hundred-fold stage and the cycle begins anew. However, the new thirty-fold stage is on a higher realm than the previous one.
We do not, for example, go back and celebrate Passover again. It becomes a new relationship with the Lord on a higher realm. There is no merit in celebrating Passover, Pentecost, or Tabernacles as a historical happening. If we do not reach in to more of God, the observance is useless. Remember the first three groups in the parable of the sower? The first group could not progress spiritually because they didn’t have the necessary revelation. The second group could not progress because of persecution and tribulation. The third group could not move forward in God because the worldliness of their hearts drew them away. Listen, each group of the last three that became fruitful also faced those things and overcame them. When they went through the first growth-year cycle and entered the second, they faced similar oppositions again on the higher level. New levels mean new devils. Each new cycle of spiritual growth requires new revelation and new dedication. As we go through these year-cycles of spiritual growth, we will find that the opposition comes from our own flesh nature. Therefore, as we grow spiritually there is a corresponding elimination of self. We become less selfish and less self-centered and more dedicated to the Lord. John the Baptist said, He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30). That is spiritual growth. It is important for us to understand the cycles of spiritual growth. In this way we are being “raised up together and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). In this way the Body of Christ is becoming “a perfect man unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).
Copyright © 2002 by Henry DuBose